Focused on Native American Health and Wellness:
Reservation-Based Diabetes and Obesity Prevention
By Elizabeth Cohn
Director of the Adelphi University Center for Health Innovation; primary investigator for the project
Native Americans develop diabetes at a rate of 33%--three times greater than Whites and twice that of African Americans. People of all races living with diabetes experience are two to four times greater risk of developing stroke, hypertension, kidney disease, dental and periodontal disease, and blindness. Recently, the members of the Unkechaug Nation have become increasingly concerned about the exponentially rising rate of diabetes on their reservation, as the numbers reflect the national trends. But a window of opportunity exists when lifestyle modifications can stop or significantly delay the progression of disease from pre-diabetes to diabetes type 2. These changes in diet and exercise are best initiated at the community–level, tailored so that they meet the needs of those who are using them.
To understand how to modify an existing set of evidence-based recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a three-way collaboration has been developed between the Unkechaug Nation, Adelphi University Center for Health Innovation and Winthrop-University Hospital Diabetes and Obesity Institute. The Unkechaug Nation’s Initiative to End Diabetes (UNITED) collaborative proposes to:
(1) outline a set of partnership steps for a community-based effort focused on education and lifestyle modification
(2) explore and design infrastructure for community-engaged research on the reservation
(3) develop a governance structure that would support applications for future funding opportunities
(4) formulate metrics for a measurable outreach plan
(5) develop a guide for other reservations who wish to adapt pre-diabetes and diabetes prevention programs.
Co-investigator of the project is Harry B. Wallace, the chief of the Unkechaug Nation. Virginia Peragallo-Dittko, executive director of the Diabetes and Obesity Institute at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola to serve as a consultant.